Dave Beran couldn’t resist weaving French cooking into the seasonal tasting menus at Dialogue, the tiny restaurant hidden away in a food hall on the Third Street Promenade that earned a Michelin star earlier this year.
With the Santa Monica Farmers Market less than a block away, he found himself drawn to the style of French cooking he fell in love with as a young chef.
“I think there’s a misconception about French food that it’s very heavy and over-the-top,” he said. “But the French cooking I learned early on is very produce-forward, and when you go to the markets here, it’s very conducive to that same genre. I joked with people that for a while at Dialogue we were cooking ‘sneaky French’.”
On Wednesday, Beran will open a 48-seat restaurant at 2732 Main St. that fully embraces French cuisine. He calls Pasjoli (pronounced PAH-zholi) an elevated neighborhood bistro — a restaurant where diners feel equally comfortable celebrating a special occasion with pressed duck and champagne and dropping in on a weeknight for a salad and a glass of wine.
Unlike Dialogue, where the pared-down decor acts as a stage for the food, Pasjoli offers a romantic experience that greets guests with a midnight blue facade and surrounds them with brick walls, vintage wallpaper and brass accents.
“When you walk in the front door, it should feel lively and full of energy,” he said.
On the menu, Beran intends to challenge the assumption that French cuisine is all about fried, cheesy, meaty dishes like French onion soup or steak frites. Instead, diners can expect classics like skate meunière and chicken cooked in champagne complemented by seasonal produce.
Although shared plates have become the default style of service for buzzy new restaurants, Beran said the menu’s appetizers, entrees and desserts are meant to be enjoyed individually, save for a few items like a faux foie gras brioche and a tableside caviar service.
“I want people to go after what they want,” he said.
Beran planned to open a large, French tasting-menu restaurant called Jolie when he moved to Los Angeles from Chicago three years ago. He said he picked a space in Downtown Los Angeles because it resembled the part of Chicago he was familiar with.
“It looked like where I was coming from in Chicago, and I quickly realized that everyone I was talking to who was moving here was basically opening a version of a restaurant they came from in LA,” he said. “They were trying to bring their restaurant here, not really immersing themselves in LA.”
When his plans for Jolie fell through, he opened Dialogue in Santa Monica instead. By the time he started thinking about opening a second restaurant, he had found a home on the Westside — specifically, the tree-lined, picturesque streets of Ocean Park.
“I spend a lot of time at the markets here, I bike here a lot, I forage in the mountains,” he said. “This just became the part of town I found myself spending more time in and enjoying, and I started thinking about what I wished was over here.”
Pasjoli is the third high-profile restaurant to open in the city this year, following Jeremy Fox’s playful Birdie G’s and Brendan Collins’ Amalfi Coast-inspired Fia.
Beran doesn’t see them as competitors, however.
“I think anything that brings more awareness to the restaurant scene here is better for everyone,” he said. “It draws in better diners, which demands better restaurants, which makes the restaurants want to be better.”